April 22, 2024

Week 10

By Jon Dunwell

On Wednesday, the House passed a bill that looks at school safety from the side of infrastructure.

This bill creates a task force to develop school safety building codes to determine what makes school buildings safer. Currently none exist. With new standards, school officials will be able to make sure they are doing what they can from an infrastructure standpoint to make buildings safe for students and teachers. Along that same line, the bill prevents districts from bonding to build athletic stadiums or facilities unless and until their facilities are up to date with the school safety building standards from the task force. Safety and security should be the priority.

This bill also deals with how schools can get help or send for help if an emergency arises. Schools are allowed to have a mobile panic alert system if it can connect to emergency services and integrates with local public safety answering points. This is a mobile phone application districts can utilize. The Governor’s office previously developed a grant program for emergency radios. Many schools took advantage of that grant, but some did not. The Governor’s office has said that they plan to re-open that grant program to make sure all schools can have access to funding for the radios. If schools do not take advantage, they will be required to use their own funds.

The bill establishes two grant programs. The first is a three-million-dollar Firearm Detection Software grant program run by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The grant program provides funds to school districts of varying sizes to help offset the cost associated with purchasing, installing, operating software that meets these requirements:

• Designed to alert and detect district employees and first responders if there is a visible, unholstered firearm on a property owned by the school district.

• Designed to integrate with a district’s existing security camera infrastructure.

• Was developed in the U.S. without any of third-party data or open-source data.

The second grant program is the School Security Personnel Grants for Infrastructure, Equipment, and Training. This grant program states that if HF 2586 or successor legislation is passed, which is the other House GOP school safety bill that creates a professional permit for school staff and mandates training requirements, it will provide school districts grants to purchase infrastructure and equipment related to employee permits to carry weapons, facilitate the training associated with employee permits to carry weapons, and to provide stipends to employees who participate in the training associated with employee permits to carry weapons. Districts who choose to enhance school security this way will have additional expenses and House Republicans want to help cover those costs to truly make schools a safer place for students and staff.